No matter how you look at it, the Cadillac Escalade is the one model that defines many things. Arguably, it’s the one model that defines Cadillac, defines its segment, and – at times – defines the people that drive it (or are driven in it). Indeed, the ‘Lade is a bona-fide cultural icon that represents luxury, wealth, and – in some cases – opulence. The large SUV accounts for the overwhelming majority of sales in its segment, consistently outselling its direct rivals by significant margins. However, the current, fourth-generation model – introduced for the 2015 model year – is beginning to show its age. Luckily, GM has been working on an all-new 2021 Cadillac Escalade, and it’s right around the corner. Here’s everything we know thus far about the next-gen Escalade.
The all-new fifth-generation Cadillac Escalade will launch for the 2021 model year, and will be offered in both the standard-length body style as well as the extended-length Escalade ESV.
The Cadillac Y trim level structure should be very much in full effect, consisting of Premium Luxury and Sport trims. We don’t expect the base-level Luxury trim to be offered on the Escalade. Platinum should be transformed into a package on either trim, creating more choice for customers.
Two more variants – a high-performance gasoline-powered model and a battery-electric version – should drop a model year or two after the release of the regular models.
Along with fresh underpinnings and mechanical bits, the all-new 2021 Cadillac Escalade will feature all-new styling, as previewed in spy photos and various leaks. Following similar size changes as the 2021 Tahoe and 2021 Suburban, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV will gain a longer wheelbase and grow on the outside.
The design of the front fascia will take a similar direction to that of the Cadillac XT6, with new horizontal headlamps joining the brand’s signature vertical daytime running lights (DRLs). The front grille will be humongous, with a heavy dose of chrome trim that will also be present in various parts of the body. The expected Sport model should swap the chrome bits for shiny black elements.
It’s unclear whether the rear lights will continue the vertical theme like on the current model, or integrate the L-shaped design present on the likes of the XT4 and XT6. Dual exhaust tips will route the escape gasses from the engine.
Inside, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade will feature an all-new cabin. We’ve already seen the cockpit in various spy shots and leaks, and can say that the overall design and treatment will be similar to that of the current Cadillac range, but adapted to the Escalade’s expansive cabin. Interior room will grow as a result of the new independent rear suspension (more on that in a bit), longer wheelbase and larger exterior dimensions. The biggest benefactors will be space in the second and third rows, as well as cargo room.
The next-gen Escalade will also have abundant levels of technology, including features such as the next-gen Rear Camera Mirror along with a next-generation infotainment system via the a 38-inch curved OLED display. Teased in December, the new display combines the center screen with the instrument panel across the dash. Rather than relying solely on touching the screen like in the current model, users will be able to control the infotainment system using two rotary controls on the center console. The smaller knob is for the volume and the larger one, with a jog feature, is for general navigation.
The rear-seat infotainment system will be completely overhauled, delivering large rear screens that are better integrated into the cabin. Driving them will be a modern user interface with significant improvements over what’s offered in the current model.
All these high-tech features will be made possible by the new GM Global B electrical architecture, which serves as the digital “nervous system.” Compared to its predecessor (Global A), Global B offers vastly improved connectivity, a five-fold increase in processing power, enhanced cybersecurity, and over-the-air updates. The new architecture, first introduced with the Cadillac CT5 and Corvette C8, will also make things more difficult for tuners, at least initially.
The 2021 Cadillac Escalade will make the move to the new GM T1 vehicle platform first introduced by the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and 2019 GMC Sierra 1500. The T1 platform also underpins the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban and 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe, along with the next-gen GMC Yukon. A more robust version of the platform is used by the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD and 2020 GMC Sierra HD. T1 is stronger and more advanced than the K2 platform that the current Escalade is based on.
Another notable change will be introduction of an independent rear suspension (IRS) with coil springs, replacing the live rear axle with leaf springs found on the current model. This noteworthy change will result in significant improvements in ride as well as sharper handling, especially on rougher surfaces. Another benefit of the IRS will be more space in the third and second rows as well as in the cargo area, since the interior configuration will no longer be limited by the live rear axle and leaf spring setup. Next-generation Magnetic Ride Control and an optional air suspension will be on hand. It’s currently unclear what impact the introduction of the new independent suspension will have on towing capacity.
For motivation, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade will come standard with a familiar formula: a naturally-aspirated 6.2L V8 gasoline engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Unlike the current model, which uses the GM 6.2L V8 L86 engine with Active Fuel Management (AFM), the all-new Escalade will use the newer 6.2L V8 L87 engine with Dynamic Fuel Management – a more advanced and efficient version of AFM.
A high-performance variant – believed to be called Escalade-V – will join the lineup later on in the product lifecycle. It is expected to be powered by a supercharged 6.2L V8 gasoline engine, similar to the LT4 unit found in the third-gen Cadillac CTS-V, C7 Corvette Z06 and gen six Camaro ZL1. Meanwhile, the twin-turbocharged 4.2L V8 LTA engine, also known as Blackwing engine, will not make the lineup.
Details are few and far between regarding the battery electric variant of the Escalade. However, engineers are looking at squeezing 400 miles from a single charge. GM Authority was first to report on the range last year.
As we first reported, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade will debut in Beverly Hills, California, on February 4th – just in time for The Oscars. GM Authority will be in attendance at the event to bring you live coverage.
The very first units of the next-gen Escalade should begin arriving at U.S. dealers late in the second quarter of early in the third quarter of 2020. Eventually, GM will sell new Escalade in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, the Middle East, and Japan.
It’s currently unclear whether the all-new model will make its way to Cadillac’s largest market, China. General Motors currently does not have a plant to produce vehicles on the T1 platform in the country.
Pricing of the all-new 20201 Cadillac Escalade is expected to increase several thousand dollars over the current model. For reference, the current 2020 Cadillac Escalade starts at $75,195 and the 2020 Escalade ESV starts at $78,195, prior to any incentives.
This report brought to you in collaboration with our sister publication, Cadillac Society.